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About Us

The Office of Special Programs-College Prep (OSP-CP) is one of two college readiness programs operating under the Office of Civic Engagement at the University of Chicago.

Since its inception more than 50 years ago as a federally-funded TRIO Upward Bound program, our mission has been to help change patterns of academic inequity and increase achievement for all students.

To accomplish these goals, the OSP-CP works alongside middle and high-school educators, advocates, and college leaders to identify effective ways to provide all students with access to a high-quality education that prepares them for career opportunities and the demands of the world outside the classroom.

Program Offerings

Applications have now closed for students looking to start in January. Please stay tuned for when our application opens back up!

We offer two programs: Upward Bound and the University of Chicago STEM Initiative (UCSI). Both are multi-year enrichment programs.

Program activities are provided year-round and give students access to academic support in the form of tutorials, homework assistance, skills enrichment, academic and career advising, college entrance exam preparation, financial application assistance, and diverse cultural experiences.

Our primary academic emphasis is on English language arts, science, mathematics, and financial literacy.

To learn more and apply, please scroll down to your program of interest.

Students We Serve

Currently, the Upward Bound program serves 118 9th- through 12th-grade students from Walter H. Dyett High School for The Arts, Hirsch Metro, Hyde Park, and Wendell Phillips Academy as well as students who live in the Douglas, Greater Grand Crossing, Washington Park, or Woodlawn communities.

Our second program, the University of Chicago STEM Initiative (UCSI), serves 30 high school students attending Chicago Public High Schools.

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School Partnerships

The Office of Special Programs-College Prep offers Upward Bound programming at the following partner schools:

Hirsch Metropolitan High School
7740 South Ingleside Avenue
Chicago, IL 60619
OSP-CP Partner since 1990

Hyde Park Academy High School
6220 South Stony Island Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
OSP-CP Partner since 1980

Walter H. Dyett High School For The Arts
555 East 51st Street
Chicago, IL 60615
OSP-CP Partner since 2012

Wendell Phillips Academy High School
244 East Pershing Road
Chicago, IL 60653
OSP-CP Partner since 2004

Upward Bound Logo
Upward Bound Programming

UChicago Upward Bound is a federally funded program that supports first-generation, low-income, underserved and under-represented 9th- to 12th-grade students in select neighborhoods and schools as they prepare for, apply to, and enroll in college. 100% of participants graduate from high school and are accepted into a college.

Upward Bound participants are involved for four years in programming. Each year begins with a six-week summer collection of activities designed to give students early and rigorous exposure to the core subjects they will take in the upcoming academic year. The program continues throughout the year with tutorials Monday through Thursday and Saturday academic enrichment.

The OSP-CP's Upward Bound programming offers extra-curricular programming designed to help high school students prepare for a successful education and career.

Upward Bound is part of TRiO, a group of federally-funded, pre-college opportunity programs. TRiO programs seek to motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a college degree.

To apply, please visit our Apply page.

Academic-Year Activities

Academic enrichment activities are held from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays from October through May. After-school tutorials are held from 4:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Additional workshops and seminars on college, financial aid, and career research and planning are held throughout the year.

All OSP-CP activities are designed to teach core academic content, address student readiness for college, and help students and parents understand the college and financial aid application and admissions process.

Enrichment Programming

Upward Bound enrichment activities take students around the city and country to visit colleges and other cultural attractions. Students may attend plays and musicals and visit museums, art galleries, and national monuments. Past field trips have included Orchestra Hall, Symphony Hall in St. Louis, the Lyric Opera House, Fermilab, and the Argonne National Laboratory.

Summer Activities

For six weeks during the summer, there will be programming. Students attend academic classes from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and participate in field trips, enrichment activities, and testing on Fridays. This programming provides opportunities for students to live on campus while they attend classes.

Available classes:
• Mathematics (Basic Math, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus)
• Science (General Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics)
• Literature
• Test Preparation
• Computer Technology
• Spanish

Parent Participation

Parent involvement is mandatory for all OSP-CP programs. Parents must attend Parent University and monthly information sessions. They must also participate in workshops, seminars, and college and scholarship application processes. 

University of Chicago STEM Initiative

The UChicago S.T.E.M. Initiative, a multi-year science enrichment program that provides over 100 contact hours per year, is open to 9th- and 10th-grade students attending any Chicago Public School. This sustained engagement offers UCSI participants the opportunity to become familiar with the university research community and the culture of science.

Space Explorers Program

The OSP-CP also has partnerships with the University of Chicago, including the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP). Our students have the opportunity to meet and work with astronomers and physicists, handle high-tech scientific instruments, and explore our universe through the Space Explorers Program, operated by the KICP.

Participants are selected based on interest and commitment rather than abilities. Students participate in weekly hands-on, in-depth laboratory sessions, residential science institutes, visits to research labs, and enrichment field trips.

The Space Explorers Program immerses these students in the process of doing science with the hope of increasing their abilities and interest in math and science. Ultimately, the program aims to improve their potential to succeed in high school and beyond.

Graduates of the UCSI Space Explorers program matriculate into college as science majors at a rate that is 500% higher than predicted by combined national and Chicago Public Schools statistics.

To apply, please visit our Apply page.

STEM  Initiative
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UChicago Promise

UChicago Promise is the University of Chicago’s multi-pronged initiative designed to help students and families throughout the City of Chicago gain admission to, pay for, and thrive in college. With UChicago Promise, the University of Chicago offers resources and special scholarships to help guide students in the city of Chicago to selective four-year institutions.

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Partner Organizations